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Wide Awake

A short-term trip brings long-term change

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Editor’s Note: The following is an account of a short-term missions trip sponsored by Huntington University in Indiana. See the sidebar for information about visiting Alliance missions sites throughout the world.

I thought traveling halfway around the world on short-term missions would be exciting—a time for spiritual growth, service and stretching. Little did I know the ground I stood on would shake, my heart would crumble and my spirit would be jolted awake by our mighty God. For my companions and me, remaining the same was not an option. God opened our eyes to brokenness and darkness and our hearts to a joy and hope without description.

I’m ashamed to admit that before the trip, I was spiritually asleep and numb to God’s goodness and power, unaware of the true condition of my heart. But by God’s grace and the smile of a little girl named Abi, I was shaken awake. This adventure shattered, reshaped, filled and revitalized a weary heart. It was a time to break down in order to be rebuilt.

When we arrived in Delhi—a city burdened by overpopulation, rampant unemployment, dilapidated buildings and homelessness—the begging children were the most difficult to encounter. For safety, we were told to walk away and not give them money or attention.

On our tourist day in Delhi, two little girls waited at the steps of our bus to ask for money. The younger one reached out and tugged on my jacket sleeve—and I walked away. I will never see her again, but she tugged past my sleeve and onto my heart. I will never forget how she made me feel: frustrated and helpless. We encountered countless children in the same situations. The most haunting was a little boy bent against a brick wall in the cold night air. His mouth looked bloody and his eyes tear stained as he repeated, “Hello, hello, hello.” How do you walk away from a child like that? I did.

I could not understand. I felt like we were not helping anyone or anything. I was frustrated with myself and hurting for these children. Then, the first stirring from God came. Psalm 100:3 reads: “Know that the Lord is God. It is He who made us, and we are His.” Every child I saw belongs to Christ. I may not be able to save the world, but I can pray to God. Humility must temper my compulsion to control. Christ alone turns darkness into light. I can do nothing without Him.

The second wave of my awakening started within the walls of a Hindu temple. I thought that observing Hindu worship would be a quick thing to see and easy to leave behind. However, it was the most terrifying experience of my life. I felt sick. The heaviness that pressed around me was a force I had never felt before. I stood beside individuals bowing to a god who was not the true God. They did not know Jesus.

It struck me that what I was feeling was darkness. If I had not gone to that temple, I would not fully understand what I am called to do as a follower of Christ. I am blessed to call God my Father, but I cannot keep Him as my own. It is my privilege to share His love. His power can move mountains and change hearts, and I need to actively pursue my role as His servant.

God completed the circle of heartbreak and restoration at the Home of Love in Chennai. From the beginning, it was evident that this small community of girls and their caretakers was a city on a hill. At the start, all we knew were their contagious smiles and beautiful faces. As the week went on, we cherished fitting their tiny hands into our own, hugging them, dancing, playing and building real relationships. We fell in love and then realized we had to leave. I wanted to keep one little girl, Abi, and love on her every day.

The night before our last day, I sobbed. Warm tears streamed down my dusty face, and I pleaded to God, “Please, please protect Abi. Build her up to be strong and help her to cling close to You as she grows.” I went on and on. Tears continued raining onto my lap as I frantically sent up prayers. “God, keep the Home of Love, touch this city, provide for these girls.”

Then I felt it. God had been and was doing everything I was begging for. I could see Him smiling and shaking His head as if to say, Amy, I am! I am providing. Open your eyes. I am all the love and provision they and you will ever need.

I looked out the dirty window to the dark Chennai streets and smiled through my tears. Why had I made God so small? Why had I not been praying and pouring myself out to Him like this before? Why would I ever think the girls would not thrive without us there? I was reminded that God does immeasurably more than anything I could ever ask for or imagine. The girls were well taken care of, getting a real education, and most of all, they know Jesus and His love. God is good. I have never been as aware of that truth as I am now.

Leaving the Home of Love—and leaving Abi—was one of the hardest things I have ever done. But the lessons, relationships and love we experienced were more than worth it.

Before this adventure, I was caught in a slumber of which I was not even aware. I learned and experienced more than I thought possible and have so much more to learn. My heart is changed, my vision cleared, my spirit humbled. I am alive to a purpose that will never change—to love the Lord and share His love with all creation. I am awake to God’s goodness, power and provision.

God, thank you for remaking me.

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